Historic game between St. Ignatius, Sacred Heart lacks proper host 

click to enlarge Unfamiliar site: Fans usually pack Kezar Stadium for the annual SI-SHC game, but the playoff rematch will be held in Pacifica. - ERIC LUIS/SPECIAL TO THE EXAMINER
  • Eric Luis/Special to The Examiner
  • Unfamiliar site: Fans usually pack Kezar Stadium for the annual SI-SHC game, but the playoff rematch will be held in Pacifica.

In the afterglow of St. Ignatius’ shocking win over Valley Christian in the Central Coast Section semifinals on Saturday, there was a collective feeling of confusion from many who follow high school sports in San Francisco.

An unprecedented matchup of venerable city rivals Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Ignatius in the Division III CCS championship will be played in ... Pacifica?

The occasion and the teams participating screams for a rematch under the lights on The City’s biggest stage at Kezar Stadium, but instead it will be held at Terra Nova High School in Pacifica.

"We have our sites lined up in the north, south and central [parts of the section] well before the teams are decided," CCS commissioner Nancy Lazenby Blaser said. "Generally speaking, it’s unusual to have two city schools [in a football championship]. We don’t wait until the last weekend to decide where to play these games."

The CCS certainly has valid reasons for not selecting Kezar.

Terra Nova features a turf field, while the condition of Kezar’s grass field, especially in wet conditions, could be in question. The CCS also tries to play as many championships at high school sites as possible, due to lower costs for the facilities and easier-controlled security.

All of those reasons would be perfectly acceptable if the game was a normal CCS championship matchup. This game, however, will be anything but normal.

The two teams have never played twice in a season or in any postseason play, even when they were both members of the Academic Athletic Association prior to moving to the West Catholic Athletic League.

During the annual regular-season game between the two teams, 5,000-7,000 fans are regularly in attendance, and although the crowd may not reach that number for the championship game, the 2,600 capacity at Terra Nova will likely be stretched to its limit. Kezar, on the other hand, can seat up to 10,000.

"The only concern I have is the enormity of the crowd and that Terra Nova won’t be able to handle it," Sacred Heart athletic director Phil Freed said. "Here’s this great matchup with historical perspective and I’d hate to have it marred with the fact that we can’t have everyone who wants to see it be there."

There are also issues with limited parking spaces at Terra Nova and in the surrounding neighborhood, especially since Serra and Menlo-Atherton will be playing in the Division I championship game at the same venue at 3 p.m. Lazenby Blaser also said the stadium will not be cleared out in between games and that fans from the first game could stay for the second.

"We get 6,000-7,000 for a regular-season game, now we’re playing for all the marbles," Freed said. "People are going to come out of the woodwork. Six thousand people is a possibility, and that’s not going to happen at Terra Nova."

While Sacred Heart has pushed for the move, the St. Ignatius athletic department is resigned to play wherever the CCS designates the game to be played.

"We are going to go wherever the CCS tells us to play," St. Ignatius athletic director John Mulkerrins said. "If the CCS tells us we are playing at Kezar Stadium, that’s where we’ll play. If they say we’re playing at Terra Nova, then we’ll go there."

Lazenby Blaser said that the logistics of moving the game to Kezar would be difficult to deal with, but that will pale in comparison to the issues that could arise at Terra Nova.

As much as the crowd, logistics and other issues don’t make sense for the game to be played at Terra Nova, the resonating fact remains that an All-City football championship should be played in San Francisco. And, an opportunity to showcase what will be one of The City’s most important high school football games in history will be missed.

"I hope I’m wrong, because that would mean the game goes on without a hitch," Freed said. "It will be a great way to wrap up the football season in San Francisco."

The teams may be from San Francsico, but, unfortunately, football in San Francisco has already been wrapped up.

 

CCS DIVISION III CHAMPIONSHIP

St. Ignatius (5-6-1)vs. SHC (7-5)

WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Terra Nova High School, Pacifica

REGULAR SEASON: Sacred Heart Cathedral defeated St. Ignatius 38-14 on Oct. 21

ROAD TO TITLE GAME: Sacred Heart defeated Monterey 37-14 and Christopher 42-23 en route to title game; St. Ignatius defeated Aptos 35-31 and Valley Christian 43-42 on way to championship game

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Jeremy Balan

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